Sofia Bulgaria bridge McDonald’s
Photographs ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

The Price of McDonald’s Food Items in Almost Every Country in the World

Don’t let the variation of prices for the same items worldwide be your Arch rival.

When Richard McDonald and Maurice McDonald decided to open a stand to sell hamburgers and eight other menu items back in 1948, the price of their centerpiece signature item was only fifteen cents — and that low price attracted many customers who sought to satisfy their hunger while simultaneously keeping more money in their wallets and purses…

The Price of McDonald’s Food Items in Almost Every Country in the World

Sofia Bulgaria McDonald’s
Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

…and the limited menu allowed the entrepreneurial brothers to serve their customers as quickly as possible and ensure that every hamburger and every side item — such as the now-world-famous French fries — tasted exactly the same every single time with rigidly consistent quality control.

In 1954, Ray Kroc discovered the ‘Speedee Service System’ which was designed by the McDonald brothers only six years after the founding of the original McDonald’s hamburger stand — and although the traveling salesman decided to sell McDonald’s identical burgers in 1,000 locations around the United States, he did not stop there, as he was instrumental in spreading The Golden Arches in countries around the world. If the menu diversified — such as the Masala Scrambled Egg in India or the savory potato-based Purple McShake in Japan — the commitment to consistent quality control and assurance prevailed…

…but the prices were not so consistent, as the cost of menu items from McDonald’s varies across the 118 countries where Ronald McDonald lays his hat — so to determine the affordability of a McDonald’s in each country, the prices of key meals and most popular items of McDonald’s around the world were gathered from the ‘order McDelivery’ section of the official McDonald’s Internet web site in every country in this study and mapped by using national income figures and data from the World Bank to show how these prices measure up relative to local wages. The cost of 100 adult meals — which is defined as a Big Mac, large fries, and a large Coca-Cola drink — as a percentage of median income in each country was calculated.

The World’s Cheapest Happy Meal is in Pakistan

The Happy Meal began life as a one-off innovation at a Guatemalan McDonald’s in 1979, but was soon homogenized and offered to young gluttons around the world. Today, the happiest Happy Meal is in Pakistan, cheap and cheerful at $2.11. Malaysia, the Philippines, and Egypt also price their Happy Meal below two-and-a-half dollars.

Click on the map for an enlarged version. Source: Expensivity.

The priciest Happy Meal is in Lebanon ($21.89), at nearly five times the global average ($4.55). The Lebanese Happy Meal is also two-and-a-half times the price of second-placed Switzerland (a still eye-watering $8.53). However, the true cost of the Happy Meal is not economic but nutritional. Health experts have been dubious about McD’s pledge to reduce meals to below 600 calories with lower salt and sugar levels; the number of chemical traces in that not-so-happy box are also troubling.

A Lebanese Big Mac Costs $21.89

Franchisee Jim Delligatti invented the world’s most famous burger in 1967, but it was 21-year-old advertising secretary Esther Glickstein Rose who nearly got her Peggy Olson moment when she named it the ‘Big Mac.’ The double-decker was way more expensive than other McDonald’s burgers, but the hype boosted sales and the Big Mac is now the brand’s flagship sandwich.

Click on the map for an enlarged version. Source: Expensivity.

Like the Happy Meal, the Big Mac is priciest in Lebanon due to inflation ($21.89). Another familiar McVillain, the Netherlands, is in second place ($10.89). Eating out in the Netherlands is expensive because Dutch tastes are simple and eating at home is cheap – encouraging a bigger divide between home meal and restaurant culture. And Esther Glickstein Rose? They laughed when she suggested ‘Big Mac.’ Decades later, they sent her an engraved plaque – but she never got a bonus.

Large Fries in the Philippines for Under 50¢

There’s nothing quite like a McDonald’s fry. Objectively, other chips make more sense. But just try stopping once you’ve started on a carton of McDonald’s fries. Israelis have the biggest deterrent, other than Lebanon: each pack costs $5.82. That’s more than an entire adult meal costs in Russia, Colombia, and 14 other countries.

Click on the map for an enlarged version. Source: Expensivity.

In the Philippines, large fries cost under a half-dollar, while Turkey and Croatia each come in at just under a dollar. In the US, fries are currently pegged at $3.19. That’s 24.1% more than the global average of $2.57.

American McDonald’s is the World’s Fourth-Most Affordable Compared to Salary

Next, we created an ‘affordability’ score for every country by calculating the cost of 100 adult meals as a % of median income. Lebanon has the worst affordability due to the inflation issues mentioned above. To buy 100 adult meals in Lebanon would cost 74.65% of the average annual salary. Nicaragua (52.98%) and Pakistan (51.15%) are closest behind, due to low average incomes of $1,719 and $1,186 respectively.

Click on the map for an enlarged version. Source: Expensivity.

Monaco (0.69%) and Liechtenstein (0.77%) deliver the best affordability, although with average salaries nearing $200k that’s no surprise. Third-placed Taiwan hits the sweet spot of an unexceptional average income ($32,788) and a bargain meal deal ($5.51) delivering affordability of 1.68%. The United States, Ronald McDonald’s homeland, proudly delivers the next best value at 1.73%.

The World’s Most Expensive McDonald’s Items

Next, our intrepid researcher sampled the most expensive item on the menu in every McDonald’s territory. Well, okay, they grabbed the price, but they didn’t get to grab the ornate and frequently exotic premium burger from each location.

Click on the map for an enlarged version. Source: Expensivity.

A glance at this world map is enough to get you salivating even if you don’t know what all the words mean. Denmark’s Homestyle x Henrik Jyrk Tokyo Teriyaki? It’s a Japanese-themed burger developed by gourmet chef Henrik Jyrk, featuring onion rings, beef steak, and teriyaki sauce in a brioche bun. It costs $9.55, and carries 802 calories.

Click on the map for an enlarged version. Source: Expensivity.

Top of the table is Lebanon with its $27 chicken sandwich, because inflation. But France and Monaco are tied in second with the more exotic Signature Charolais & Sauce Aux 2 Moutardes. Charolais is the breed of cow, the two mustards are Dijon and l’Ancienne, the cheddar is red, and it’s 100% French. Mouth-watering fast food at a mouth-watering price ($14.38).

An International McDonald’s Menu for Data Nerds

Ready to find how your next holiday destination prices up in the McDonald’s leagues? Use the interactive table below to explore our data in full.

Final Boarding Call

I do not visit McDonald’s all that much — but I do like to try some different menu offerings in other parts of the world which are not found in the United States. For example, I sampled the 1955 Burger at a McDonald’s restaurant in Fujairah, which is located in the United Arab Emirates

…but as a person who earned his Master of Business Administration degree, the Big Mac Index — which is an interactive currency comparison tool as developed by The Economist in 1986 — was given a brief mention during my studies in terms of determining the general cost of goods and services in each country in the world. It is not an accurate tool by any stretch of the imagination — but it did help to give somewhat of an idea of comparing the cost of a Big Mac in each country in the world and using that to help to determine the costs of other goods and services. This article is not to be confused with the Big Mac Index.

I have been given express written permission to use the aforementioned maps and the verbatim text from this article from Expensivity, which highlights the price of food items sold by McDonald’s restaurants in almost every country in the world. This information is general in nature only and does not constitute personal advice. While Expensivity has endeavored to ensure the information provided is accurate and current, it cannot guarantee it. Neither Expensivity nor The Gate accept liability for the information which is presented in this article.

All photographs ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

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